Flight Plan: Reconnecting the World Safely

With increasing vaccination rates around the world, people are looking forward to making meaningful connections through international travel. But how are governments, the private sector, and their citizens taking steps to make air travel safe?

On July 22nd, Meridian brought together leaders in a Diplocraft program, “Flight Plan: Reconnecting the World Safely” to explore differing approaches around the world that are leveraging tools and technologies to bring us closer together. The panel discussion focused on how nations can safely return to travel, establishing common vaccination and testing protocols while jumpstarting economic recovery. The program was held in partnership with United Airlines.

Moderated by Meridian CEO Ambassador Stuart Holliday, the program featured the following speakers:

  • Jason Grove, Divisional Vice President International Government Affairs, Abbott
  • Steve Morrissey, Vice President, Regulatory and Policy, United Airlines
  • Cindy Wee, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of Singapore

Top takeaways from the conversation:


  1. A COMMON GOAL ACROSS SECTORS. As increasing numbers of people around the world are vaccinated against COVID-19, international travel is starting to resume. There is a demand for a coordinated and multilateral reopening among countries and within the private and public sector.  All speakers emphasized the shared goal of working towards a universal set of health standards and testing protocols.
  2. RAPID TESTING WILL PLAY A VITAL ROLE. The partnership between United Airlines and Abbott Laboratories has created the first at-home rapid test to receive CDC approval for U.S. passengers returning to the United States. Rapid and widespread testing on a routine basis plays a key role in containing the spread of the virus. Abbott Laboratories tests are continually assessed to ensure they catch emerging variants, and a combination test that distinguishes between COVID-19 and seasonal respiratory diseases is in development. Rapid antigen testing will play a vital role in lessening existing travel restrictions and quarantines and further increasing consumer confidence in travelling.
  3. SINGAPORE’S RESPONSE. The Singaporean strategy for transit has changed from a “zero covid” strategy to a strategy that plans to keep airports and ports open for trade, business, and tourism, in the knowledge that covid cannot keep the economy shuttered endlessly. Singapore plans three different lanes to enter the country: (1) Travelers can apply online, submit a negative PCR test in advance and undergo a 14-day quarantine upon arrival (2) Singapore’s air travel pass available to those traveling from Brunei, New Zealand, and China (3) Future plans for an air travel bubble with Hong Kong. Singapore is progressively evaluating the situation and will review and adjust current measures.
  4. ESTABLISHING AND REVISING TRAVEL PROTOCOLS. Multilateral organizations such as International Air Transportation Association (IATA) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) will play an important role in coordinating approaches to safe air travel by sharing guides and information on what works. These are not regulatory agencies so it will be up to individual countries to implement these protocols. Additionally, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently created a safe travel framework that lays out protocols for a safe travel blueprint and a temporary international cross-sectoral forum for sharing information in real time on plans and approaches to facilitating travel. The panel discussed the importance of following a science-based approach as our knowledge deepens about the virus and how it is transmitted; blunt instruments to restrict travel used at the beginning of the pandemic should be reevaluated based on the existence of vaccines and improvements in testing and therapeutics.
  5. A MULTI-LAYERED DIGITAL APPROACH. Speakers emphasized the importance of the multilayered digital approach that utilizes digital technology. Singapore has created a mobile app that collects citizens’ vaccine information in a centralized government database. United Airlines has focused on enhancing the customer journey with a more “touchless experience” by creating the Travel Ready Center, which tells travelers vaccine and testing requirements, allows them to upload test results, and helps to contact trace. ​​​​​​Governments have different approaches to digitizing and verifying vaccination and testing records; some are relying on the private sector while others maintain central databases. Steve Morrissey explained that harmonizing this aspect of travel is “going to take collaboration between third party providers, state governments, the federal government, and foreign countries.” ​​​​​​


United Airlines

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